This post includes a brief plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film Phantom Thread (2017).
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the 2017 romantic drama stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock and Vicky Krieps as Alma. Beware of spoilers.
Phantom Thread tells the story of Reynolds Woodcock, a well-known fashion designer who makes dresses for the elite. He runs his business together with his sister Cyril, who manages the day-to-day operations of his fashion house. One day, during a trip to the countryside, Reynolds meets Alma, a waitress who later becomes his muse.
What Happens in “Phantom Thread”? (Plot Explained)
Shortly after moving in with Reynolds, Alma becomes one of his employees and one of his main sources of inspiration. However, their relationship takes a different turn when Alma begins to realize Reynolds’ controlling and obsessive nature. Despite the designer’s mood swings, Alma insists on staying by her man’s side.
In an attempt to rekindle their romance, Alma prepares a romantic dinner. She sends Cyril and the staff away. The surprise turns into a heated argument as Reynolds detests changes in his routine. The next morning, while preparing Reynolds’ tea, Alma decides to sprinkle some of the wild mushrooms that she had picked up earlier. After drinking the poisoned tea, Reynolds faints and falls on top of his most important creations. The staff pulls an all-nighter to repair it.
During his recovery, Reynolds hallucinates about his late mother. Meanwhile, Alma is right by his side, taking care of him. When Reynolds wakes up, he proposes to his muse, and she gladly accepts. The wedding takes place not long after, but their honeymoon phase doesn’t last very long.
When Cyril informs Reynolds that they are losing some of their major clients to a rival fashion house, he attributes his poor results to Alma. The designer believes that his wife is the main reason why he can no longer concentrate on his craft.
After overhearing Reynolds’ complaints, Alma decides to poison Reynolds again. This time, she is cooking him a wild mushroom omelette. When Reynolds tries it, Alma tells him that she wants him weak and vulnerable. Not only that, but she also wants her husband to be completely dependent on her to take care of him.
The Ending of “Phantom Thread” Explained
The ending of “Phantom Thread” shows Reynolds eating the poisoned omelette and asking Alma to kiss him before he gets sick. While taking care of Reynolds, Alma imagines their future life with children and running the fashion house together. Although Alma acknowledges that things are not going to be easy, she is certain that their love will help them overcome the challenges.
What does the ending of “Phantom Thread” mean? The ending of “Phantom Thread” means that Reynolds has finally accepted his wife (Alma) as an equal. In addition, it seems that the couple has figured out what works for them. Alma needs Reynolds to be vulnerable, and the only way to accomplish that appears to be to make him physically weak.
There are two other prevalent questions about Phantom Thread’s ending: “Why did she poison Reynolds?” and “Why did he let Alma do it?”.
Why did Alma poison Reynolds? Whenever Alma decides to poison her husband, she is not actually trying to kill Reynolds. Alma just wants to make him “sick enough” to open up to her. The poisoning usually happens when Reynolds is about to break up with Alma. What is the reasoning behind it? Alma wants Reynolds. However, she also needs Reynolds to be vulnerable, in order to make their relationship work. Otherwise, Reynolds would just fall back into his old habits.
Why did Reynolds let Alma poison him? The man knows that his inability to be vulnerable has prevented him from being in a meaningful and loving relationship. Being with Alma and letting her challenge his habits has allowed him to see that. Also, the man is happy that he has found his “soulmate”. That’s why he eats the poisoned omelette with a grin on his face and passionately kisses Alma afterwards.
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Phantom Thread (2017) [Blu-ray]
The Relationship Between Alma and Reynolds Explained
Despite the crazy ups and downs of their relationship, Alma and Reynolds are a couple. Many don’t like the idea of power dynamics in a romantic relationship, but they exist.
At the start of their affair, Reynolds had a lot to say about what Alma could or could not do. That happened because Alma didn’t mind it, as long as she was his one and only. Alma wants Reynolds, she’s not with him only because of his money.
Once Reynolds started losing interest in Alma, she also started changing her mind about giving too much power to Reynolds. Although Alma started off as Reynold’s muse, she is now the obsessed one. Anyone relatively sane would have left Reynolds a long time ago. As mentioned before, Reynolds has a difficult personality.
Whenever the fashion designer loses interest in his girlfriends, he sends Cyril to do the dirty work for him: she is the one who tells them to leave. However, Alma is different. She stands her ground and is not afraid to challenge Reynolds’ old ways.
Alma’s love language is very different from Reynolds’s. She believes that there is no intimacy without vulnerability, and Reynolds refuses to show that side of him. The designer prefers to project a strong and well-put together image of himself, but it’s all a facade. Deep down, Reynolds is a very insecure man.
Nonetheless, Alma is not a person who gives up easily. Her methods for getting what she wants are indeed questionable. But what is even more surprising is her husband’s reaction when he finds out what she did. Not only does he comply with her “demands”, but Reynolds does it gladly.
The relationship between Alma and Reynolds is pretty intriguing, to say the least. Is their love real? Yes. However, marriage is not always pretty. Not many might be able to comprehend what is going on between Alma and Reynold. Nonetheless, it works for them, and at the end of the day, it’s a consensual relationship.
The plot twist of “Phantom Thread” is totally out of this world. Did you see that ending coming? I certainly did not. That final scene just hits the viewer right in the face. By the way, “Phantom Thread” is not a crowd pleaser. It’s one of those films that viewers are either going to love or hate.
“Phantom Thread” is a very deceiving film, but in a good way. The first part of the film doesn’t do it much justice, but then it gets better. The story starts in a very cliché manner, then takes a dark turn, only to end on a happy note. Well, from my understanding, “Phantom Thread” has a happy ending.
Both Alma and Reynolds have amazing character evolutions. Let’s start with Reynolds. He is a consummate control freak, but in the end, the designer learns how to let it go. By the way, Reynolds is a man of many quirks, and that applies to his views on love too. He doesn’t need Alma in his life. However, the man is happy because he has finally found his match.
Then there is Alma, she starts as a docile waitress who later becomes Reynolds’ muse in more ways than one. In the beginning, Alma acts more like a supporting character in Reynolds’ life, but everything changes when the latter starts to act out. She stands her ground and poisons her husband, not to teach him a lesson but to make a point: things need to change.
“Phantom Thread” doesn’t shy away from the ugly moments that every couple faces (at some point) in a serious and long-term relationship. To be honest, both Alma and Reynolds are hot messes, which is why they are such a good match.
For a romance drama, “Phantom Thread” has some pretty funny moments. Its story is essentially an in-depth exploration of toxic relationships with a brilliant touch of dark humour. Calling “Phantom Thread” a dark romantic comedy has nothing to do with condoning toxic relationships. Not all love stories are pretty. Films like “Phantom Thread” present a whole different spectrum of what relationships are sometimes: a hot mess.
Personally, I despise the Disney narrative of relationships. Boy meets girl. Then he proposes, and they live happily ever after. That’s not how it works, at least not for most people. There are a lot of things happening between the marriage and the “happily ever after”. Those are the stories that I want to see more often on the silver screen.
Overall, “Phantom Thread” is a memorable film with a wicked sense of humour and an unforgettable ending. I kid you not, when Alma started to poison Reynolds with those mushrooms, that set a whole new tone for the film. Game changing moment.